24 November 2012

Benchmarking Time: Devil’s Coulee dinosaur egg site, Southern Alberta

Posted by Jessica Ball

This week’s benchmark is a unique one – not your usual NGS fare! It comes to you courtesy of Howard Allen, who says:

This is a quarry marker that the Royal Tyrrell Museum cements in place at their dinosaur fossil excavations around the Province of Alberta. This particular one marks a quarry at the Devil’s Coulee dinosaur egg site in southern Alberta, near the town of Warner. The quarry marker allows the locality to be precisely marked by GPS (and/or conventional survey equipment), so it can be found again in the future.

The markers address a problem resulting from imprecise records of historical excavations in many areas of Alberta. In the early part of the 20th Century (and even earlier in some cases), scientists excavating dinosaur fossils would record their localities in the vaguest of terms, such as “17 miles northeast of Podunk”, which for all intents and purposes is useless to more recent workers trying to figure out the stratigraphic positions and geological setting of important specimens. As a result, the Tyrrell Museum started a program of attempting to locate old quarries and map their positions, as well as ensuring that modern quarries are properly recorded (see article, here: http://tyrrellmuseum.academia.edu/DarrenTanke/Papers/160545/Historical_archaeology_Solving_the_mystery_quarries_of_Drumheller_and_Dinosaur_Provincial_Park_Alberta_Canada).

As you can see from the shadow, this marker, like your Mauna Kea benchmark, is standing 2 or 3 inches above the ground (I’m told it was initially flush to the surface), showing how much erosion has taken place in the relatively short time since it was placed in 1987.

Photo courtesy of Howard Allen

There is also a museum at the site (The Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum), with photos of the site, and you can see photos of some of the eggs on display in the Royal Tyrrell museum in Callan’s post from October.